Interview with Alumnus Kerry Morales, RN
We are so appreciative of Kerry for taking time out from her busy schedule as a nurse and mother to talk to us about her experience working with Capital Idea Houston and for telling us more about her journey. Kerry graduated in May of 2020 from HCC Coleman and had a difficult time getting hired because of the pandemic. We are so proud of all she’s accomplished and were thrilled to know that she recently started as a Clinical Nurse at MD Anderson back in November 2021.
At the beginning of our chat, we asked Kerry about what it was like learning about our program and getting started with the registration process. Interestingly, she had a lot to say about people’s hesitancy:
There's never any help unless there's a catch and people feel stuck, so anything good that feels like it might be free; Anything that seems like it might be too good to be true. People just doubt it. Even I felt skeptical when I first started.
Because going to school is hard when you haven't had family or close friends that go to school or don’t have people to guide you. It's a lot to make you think that college isn't for me or turn away and think I don't know what I'm doing here or this is too much for me.
People always think there is a catch. “Will I really not have to pay it back?”, “They're not going to sponsor my education”, “It's too good to be true.” So, I'm always telling people, “YES, this is what they do!”
Capital IDEA Houston does amazing work. I'm always telling people, everyone from my neighborhood, everyone from my community, “Believe me!” There’s such mistrust. It's almost like they don't believe me. So, we just have to keep talking to people to let them know!
What were things like for you at the beginning of your higher education journey?
I was just giving it a try. I had been working at Star Pizza for some 10 years. I also cleaned houses on my days off and sometimes worked at the farmers market on the weekends. It was just work all the time. Exhausting. I didn't have any time for my political work or any opportunity to do the community work that I really love.
I started to think “How can I change this?” There were some other waitresses at my job that went back to school and one of them became a nurse. So, I started looking into the process. I started at HCC, taking some prerequisites. At that time, I wasn't sure if I was going to get into nursing or dental hygiene, but I really enjoyed the science classes that were prerequisites for nursing, so I thought to myself, “let me just go with this for now.”
I found out about Capital IDEA Houston from two other mothers that were participants. It was at a time that I was feeling very overwhelmed. I was working, I was going to school and I was feeling very out of place. I was doubting myself. I kept thinking “What am I doing here? I don't belong here” and was really feeling like giving up and that was exactly the time that I started with Capital IDEA Houston. When I finally secured the sponsorship from Capital IDEA Houston, I thought, “This is it! This is my time. I'm going to do this. I have support. I have the help that I need.” And from that point on, that's when I decided no matter how hard it is, I'm going to do it! And I did!
All the support and guidance that Capital IDEA Houston gives to help navigate college life; All the tutoring, college prep makes a huge difference; It wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't had that help. I don't think I would have made it without Capital IDEA Houston.
Tell me about the thing that had the most impact?
When I first started with Capital IDEA Houston, we were still having in-person meetings and immediately, I met so many people. Some people who were a little ahead of me would tell me what to expect in nursing school, other people I met were other mothers who would encourage me to push through and stay with it.
At the VIP meetings, I got to hear people talk about their experiences. I heard from people who were getting started just like me and others who were a little ahead of me. I got a lot of encouragement from the other participants, especially the other mothers who talked about the struggles that they faced.
Seeing other people go through it and push through was huge for me. It was more than just the resources and the help that was provided by the program; it was also the support that I found in the experiences shared by the other participants that made a world of difference. It made me feel like this is possible for me. This really is something I can do. They are doing it. I can do it too!
What was it like for you when you graduated?
It was like graduating in the midst of chaos. It was May 2020, the height of the pandemic and I made it through. I got through all the exams, graduated and started studying for the license exam. Got my license and then immediately started applying to every residency, every job possible. Because of the pandemic, I wasn't hearing back from anyone. There were hiring freezes and the nursing residencies were paused and I didn't know what I would do.
I was working with my Capital IDEA Houston career navigator. We would touch base and he was able to confirm that everyone was having difficulties getting hired. That the hospitals didn’t want to bring in any residency nurses or new nurses in the midst of all the chaos. I started to get a little scared because I was thinking, “what if I'm not going to find work?”
And then all the schools shut down so my son had to transition to virtual school. Out of desperation, I started cleaning houses again. And then, my clients stopped having people come over to clean because of the pandemic precautions. So I was like, “Oh, God, this is getting really bad.”
I kept applying to places and had to apply for unemployment as a contract worker and luckily, they approved my claim and I was able to secure the benefits. The unemployment benefits helped get us by but I still had to make time to continue to apply to jobs and help my son with his virtual schooling.
I finally got my first interview with MD Anderson. And that's my first job! I got it!
What’s it been like since you started your new position as a Clinical Nurse at MD Anderson?
I started as a nurse in the head and neck surgery unit in November 2021. When I first started in my unit, a ton of nurses had quit and because of the pandemic, there was a shortage in every department and it affected everything. It made everything chaotic and overwhelming. It seems like things are getting a little better now. I’m still learning a lot. It's a great place to be.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about going back to school?
I would tell them that it is possible! I had to relearn everything. I went back really late. I didn't remember anything from school and I kept doubting what I was doing from the start. I would really encourage people who feel the same way, who haven't seen others close to them do it. It doesn’t feel possible, but it is.
Don’t let thoughts like “I'm a mother. I'm working. I don't even know basic math. What am I doing? This is not even possible for me.” stop you. Just starting out with the prerequisites. Even if you've had a hard time in school, even if you've been out of school for a long time, even if you haven't seen your family or friends be able to do that with their life, you can do it!
I still sometimes feel out of place at my job but we can't continue feeling like we don't belong in these jobs. We can get there. We can understand this stuff! Even if you don't come from a family with money, even if you haven't seen people in your family get an education, it is possible!
If you are ready to jump start your livelihood, join us at one of our upcoming virtual info sessions to find out how we've helped nearly a thousand students achieve self-sufficiency and get the training they needed with a sponsorship from Capital IDEA Houston: www.capitalideahouston.org/infosession